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President Donald Trump is entitled to lifetime protection by a Secret Service detail, but those same agents could also be hauled into court to testify against him under oath.
It’s a prospect that might have seemed outlandish, even until recently, but now appears real as Trump is expected to face a raft of criminal and civil challenges in federal and state courts once he loses his presidential immunity.
Legal experts are contemplating such a scenario as Trump continues to shatter norms — and potentially break laws — in the final days of his presidency.
There’s clear precedent for Secret Service officials to be compelled to testify against sitting presidents, and legal experts and former agents say Trump’s protective detail could also be subject to subpoenas.
“There’s no doubt that the Secret Service could be subpoenaed,” said Michael Gerhardt, a constitutional law professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill.
There’s no legal privilege that would prevent agents from sharing information about potential criminal behavior or the abuse of power that they might have witnessed while doing their job.
“There are so many ways in which we’re in uncharted territory right now,” said Stephen Vladeck, a constitutional law expert at the University of Texas School of Law. “But of course, that’s all because we have a president who put us there.”
Read more: Trump’s incitement of the deadly US Capitol riot adds to an already massive tsunami of legal peril he’s facing upon leaving the White House. Here’s what awaits him.
Lessons from the Monica Lewinsky scandal
The idea of agents being forced to testify against someone they protect is repulsive to many current and former Secret Service officials.
Some of them watched in horror as investigators forced their former colleague Larry Cockell to testify to a grand jury during the investigation into then-President Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Secret Service agents are privy to some of the most intimate details of the lives of presidents and their families, who in turn trust them with their privacy and safety.
“That is a very, very slippery slope to go down as far as the Secret Service is concerned,” said former Secret Service agent Joe Funk, a 21-year veteran of the Secret Service who served on the details of presidents George H. W. Bush and Clinton.
Independent counsel Kenneth Starr in 1998 subpoenaed Cockell, who was the head of Clinton’s security detail, to testify about the relationship with Lewinsky. Three other Secret Service agents also testified about Clinton before a grand jury in the legal battle surrounding their testimony that reached the US Supreme Court.
At the time, the Clinton administration and the Secret Service railed against the orders compelling agents to testify under oath. They argued that putting them on the witness stand would mean presidents would seek distance from their security details and compromise their own safety.
But the courts rejected their argument that Secret Service agents deserve special confidentiality privileges.
“In order for us to do our job, we need to …read more
Source:: Business Insider